Mumbai: The ruling BJP’s oldest ally, the Shiv Sena, has demanded the post of deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha.
Within the ruling NDA partners, the Shiv Sena has the largest number (18 MPs) next only to that of the BJP (303).
The development comes amidst speculation that Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal could get the position.
Shiv Sena’s MP Arvind Sawant was sworn-in as a Cabinet minister and was allotted the heavy industries and public enterprises portfolio, which was given to the Shiv Sena in the previous Modi government— the party was given a single berth that time too.
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray was reportedly unhappy over the portfolio allotted to the party, but he didn’t comment publicly over it until Thursday when he chose to break his silence.
“Whether it is post of deputy speaker or any other post, we have demanded openly, there is no question of hiding anything,” said Uddhav, who was in Kolhapur with his wife Rashmi and son Aditya and newly elected MPs to visit the Ambabai temple.
“There is nothing wrong if you desire something, that does not means that you are angry, sometimes it is our right to ask for something, this cannot be treated as being upset,” he said in presence of state Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil, a close confidante of BJP president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
“This (deputy speaker post) is not our demand, it is our natural claim and right… The word natural is important… This post must be given to us… Why should we demand it since it is our right?,” Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha member and spokesperson Sanjay Raut told a TV channel.
Asked about the alliance for the upcoming Maharashtra Legislative Assembly elections, he said: “We (the BJP and the Shiv Sena) are together, the alliance is solid… We have decided on it.”
In the 16th Lok Sabha, the deputy speaker’s position was held by AIADMK’s M Thambidurai.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena has started preparations for Uddhav and the newly elected MPs’ visit to Ayodhya, ahead of the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha.
“Shiv Sena chief is visiting Ayodhya. Will communicate the date… Commitment is commitment,” Shiv Sena spokesman Sanjay Raut tweeted.
In November last year, Uddhav, his family and top party leaders visited Ayodhya and demanded that the Ram temple be constructed at the earliest.
It may be recalled that from 2002-2004, Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi had been the speaker of Lok Sabha.